Thursday was the 76th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. More than 23 hundred Americans were killed on that early Sunday morning.
“Those who could fought back, but for many it was just a matter of trying to survive… to escape a burning hanger, to leap from a shattered and sinking vessel, to swim through waters chocked with oil and flames.” Bruce Mosler with the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum says tens of thousands survived the surprise attack on the Hawaiian naval base, but with the passage of time few survivors remain. Armando Chic Galella is one of them. He recalls being in the mess Hall at Hickam Field on December 7th, 1941. “I looked up and saw these planes coming down. That was the only time I felt fear.” After realizing what was happening,
The 96-year-old Sleepy Hollow, New York native scrambled with others to get weapons and take cover as bombs and bullets showered down from above. “All the planes on the ground were gone. There were causalities everywhere. All kinds of shooting began from the ships in the harbor with anti aircraft and small arms fire. When we were at the barracks, we huddled up against the wall. In the next half hour or so, all hell broke loose. The most frightening thing I can recall was how much noise those bombs were making when they struck our hangers. Everything was rocking and the ground shook.”
Galella’s childhood buddy from the same community was serving alongside him during the attack. He ran out to a plane to grab a machine gun. “And I asked about my best friend John Horan. I said to one of the fellas. I said anybody seen my friend John? He got killed that day.” Emotions were high for Galella. “And I felt anger. Of course anger set in. O Boy, the longer the day went on, the angrier I got. There was no way you could take out your frustration on anybody.”
The Army Sergeant says his blood still boils 76 years later. “I will never forgive and I will never forget what the Japanese did that day. Never, because your training wasn’t on the line. I will never forgive and never forget. We had no more chance than a snow ball in hell.” Galella was awarded the Bronze Star for his five years of service in the Pacific. He helped toss a wreath into the Hudson River from the U.S.S Intrepid on the 76 anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. “I am not a hero. I’m a survivor. All your heroes have crosses, not me.”
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